Most pet owners are aware of heartworm disease, the clinical symptoms, and how we can prevent this process from occurring in our four legged canine family members. However, many cat owners still remain unaware of the serious nature of the disease and the huge risk that it presents to their feline companions. Feline heartworm disease manifests itself differently, although it can be just as life threatening in cats as in dogs. According to Memorial Cat Hospital in Houston, TX, prevention is simple, and yet many feline owners remain unaware of the importance of monthly prevention in their pets. Unlike dogs, there is no treatment for eliminating heartworm disease in cats, making prevention all the more critical.
Although outdoor cats are at greater risk of being infected, a relatively high percentage of cats considered by their owners to be totally indoor pets also become infected. Overall, the distribution of feline heartworm infection in the United States seems to parallel that of dogs but with lower total numbers. There is no predictable age in cats to become infected with heartworms. Cases have been reported in cats from nine months to 17 years of age, the average being four years at diagnosis.
Heartworms do not need to develop into adults to cause significant disease and illness in cats. Much of the clinical symptoms seen with Feline Heartworm Disease is caused by the microfilaria migrating through the lung tissue on the way to the cat’s heart. Heartworm disease in felines affects the cat’s pulmonary system, not the heart, as in canine patients. Newly developing worms and the subsequent death of most of these same worms can result in acute pulmonary inflammation response and lung injury. This initial phase is often misdiagnosed as asthma or allergic bronchitis but in actuality is part of a syndrome now known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).
Monthly heartworm prevention is a simple, easy step that you as an owner need to take to keep your kitty happy and healthy for life! If you have additional questions or need more information, please take the time to discuss with your veterinarian today!
To learn more about Feline Heartworm Disease and prevention of this insidious disease in our kitties, please visit The American Heartworm Society. Or, watch this informative video which explains heartworm disease in feline patients very well, and be sure to protect your furry feline friend.